This was a Christmas present from H. for me this year. He knows I love Jane Austen and P.D. James. I listed it in my Best Books of 2011 post even though I hadn’t quite finished it yet but because I was anticipating that the combination of Austen and James could only be awesome. That should probably teach me not to judge a book until I’m finished.
There is a lot of potential here and the beloved Austen characters are in good hands with James. Fans of Pride and Prejudice don’t have to worry that their beloved Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are misrepresented. James does a nice job of recreating the Austenian world and also in filling in some of the side stories from Pride and Prejudice. Still, this book ultimately falls short of great. Partly, it’s that the mystery is not what one would expect from a James book. Partly, it’s that she spends too much time on lengthy explanations of everything from a plot summary of Pride and Prejudice to details of 18th century British law. I also was hoping for more scenes with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (I was hoping they would be involved in solving the crime). Although they are treated respectfully, there isn’t much new insight into their characters or much in the way of great scenes between the two of them.
I imagine that this is a book P.D. James wrote for her own pleasure as much as for her readers. She’s had a long and illustrious career and I kind of imagine her thinking of this idea and saying “What the heck!” (Or whatever a 80+ British woman would say.) I like that image. If you are a fan of James or of Austen this is definitely worth the read but if you aren’t already a fan you’ll probably fine this one just ok.
My Mom gave me this volume of three Truman Capote short stories. I’m not a huge fan of short stories. I appreciate the skill it takes to write a great one but I just enjoy novels more. I haven’t read a lot by Capote, only In Cold Blood. I did enjoy these autobiographical stories, in particular “The Thanksgiving Visitor” where Miss Sook (Capote’s elderly maiden aunt and caretaker) invites his worst enemy to Thanksgiving when Capote is in second grade. It’s a really lovely story of grace, but told in a funny and sad way. These stories are very Southern and reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor or Carson McCullers. They didn’t covert me into a short story lover but they did make me want to read more Capote, maybe in novel form.